Student Voice


April 21, 2024



Global Perspectives

Global traditions: Opera facial makeup

December 11, 2019

Introduction: As writing instructors in UWRF’s English Language Transition (ELT) Program one of our missions is to involve English learning students in campus activities while strengthening their knowledge of English. We could think of no better way to do this than to have them publish an article in the Student Voice. What you are about to read is the final product of several sessions of brainstorming and writing followed by consultations with native speakers including some from the TESOL program and the Student Voice. -- Kiki Augustin (ESL 211 Intermediate Writing) and Alex Hatheway (MODL 310 Advanced Composition)

A special feature of national cosmetics in China is types of facial makeup in operas. Each historical figure or a certain type of person in the opera has an approximate spectral type, like singing or playing music, and these are the types of facial makeup in operas. The types of facial makeup in operas are based on certain personalities, temperaments or some special types of figures for the use of certain colors. 

Specific types of facial makeup in operas put on the actors’ faces to symbolize the personalities, characteristics, and fates of the roles. Usually red faces have positive meanings, symbolizing brave, faithful, and wise men.

Another positive color is purple, which signifies wisdom and bravery. Black faces, for their part, indicate awful meanings like staleness, integrity, bravery and recklessness. However, they can also represent uprightness. Blue and green faces symbolize the hero of the bush, with the former also hinting at strength and intrepidity. Yellow and white faces have negative meanings that symbolize ferocious, treacherous, and crafty men.

The most famous skill in opera is face changing. The skills of face changing are generally differentiated into three types: the wiping mask, the blowing mask, and the pulling mask. Face changing is a magical art. Actors change more than 10 masks in less than 20 seconds.

By raising the hand, swinging a sleeve, or tossing the head, an actor uses different masks to show different emotions, expressing invisible and intangible feelings through visible and tangible masks. Come to China to experience the magic and fun of facial makeup in opera!